Visualising Collective Emotions

2019 - present

HeartBees is a nature-inspired visualisation system that allows us to experience and understand our emotions as a collective. The system uses swarming behaviour to visualise the eight primary emotions based on Robert Plutchik’s Theory of Emotion [1] which included: joy-sadness, trust-disgust, fear-anger, surprise-anticipation. These four pairs of polar opposite emotions are categorized by their triggered physiological reactions due to ourpsycho-evolutionary origins.

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

In Collaboration with NOKIA Bell Labs

Initially born at Nokia Bell Labs in 2019, HeartBees was a collaboration with the Social Dynamics Research Group [2]. It is designed based on the principles of calm technology [3] by sharing biosignals (i.e. heart rate) to convey our internal experiences, provides social cues about our emotional states and, potentially, makes us more aware and empathic of each other.

Nonetheless, HeartBees is a generative visualisation system that can be used in conjunction with any set of data that represents emotions. The visualisation is based on the Boids model, which is an approach to simulate the aggregate motion of a flock of birds, a school of fish, or a swarm of bees. In a similar vein, HeartBees simulates our collective emotional behavior, and it does so in a playful and abstracted – therefore, privacy-preserving – way.

Eight Primary Emotions Visualised with HeartBees

Interacting with HeartBees

HeartBees has the potential to unlock a wide range of applications, for instance, inspecting collective responses on certain topics on social media, simulating the experience of collective effervescence [4] in virtual gaming space or metaverse. Such a system can also be installed at the office, and would allow immediate feedback of its collective atmosphere.

We invite you to try out the interactive demo below to navigate between different emotions yourself. Generative artworks created by HeartBees are also available for purchase as NFTs.

HeartBees's Appearances


HeartBees: Visualizing Crowd Affects. 2020
IEEE VIS Conference Arts Program

Having a Heart Time? A Wearable-based Biofeedback System. 2020
Conference on Mobile Human-Computer Interaction (MobileHCI)


2021. Crypto Valley Conference (Rotkreuz, Switzerland)

2020. IEEE VIS Arts Pogram

[1] A psychoevolutionary theory of emotions by Robert Plutchik. Published July 1, 1982

[2] Social Dynamics Research Group of Nokia Bell Labs based in Cambridge UK

[3] Calm Technology coined in 1995 by PARC Researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in reaction to the increasing complexities that information technologies were creating

[4] Collective effervescence (CE) is a sociological concept coined by Émile Durkheim, the synchronicity in thoughts, actions, or emotions in groups and societies.